How to Prepare Your Bar or Restaurant for Major Sports Events

Major sports events can mean big business for bars and restaurants in Canada. Here's what you should take into account before hosting the next big game.

Canadians are some of the most die-hard sports fans in the world. From the Stanley Cup Playoffs to the Super Bowl and Winter and Summer Olympics, there are many major sporting events for Canadians to look forward to throughout the year. And Canadians love to gather to watch and cheer on their favourite teams at bars or restaurants, usually while enjoying something deep-fried or carbonated — even if the game is airing early in the morning! In 2014, Toronto’s city council voted to allow bars to open at 7:00 AM for the gold medal men’s hockey game at the Sochi Olympic Games.

Big games can mean big business for bars and restaurants in Canada. With 15.5 million people following the National Hockey League (NHL), that’s a lot of pints to sling and tables to set! If you have televisions in your bar or restaurant, you can tap into the 40% of NHL followers who catch games on TV — nearly 70% of the population watched the NHL Playoffs in 2018.

Canadians are passionate about sports other than hockey, too. Canada’s match vs. Croatia during 2022’s FIFA World Cup was the second most-watched sports broadcast in the country, attracting an average viewership of 4.4 million people. This year was also the first time that the World Cup was held during winter, and this change in season affected the strategies of bars and restaurants, which in previous years might have taken advantage of the good weather with planned outdoor activities.

No matter the season, there are lots of ways to prepare your bar or restaurant for upcoming sporting events and make the most of cherishing your favourite sports teams alongside your customers.

Preparing your bar or restaurant for upcoming major sporting events

A bigger influx of fans at your venue can be a blessing, but it can also be a disaster if your business isn’t prepared. With this in mind, here’s what you should take into account before hosting the next big game.

Step 1: Create offers to attract customers

Special sports events provide the perfect opportunity to let your creativity run wild. Reimagine your menu, host themed activities, create deals that attract new customers to your establishment and reward long-time customers with special prizes through your loyalty program with Square Loyalty.

Consider activities before and after the game to increase the time customers spend at your venue. These can be products you sell, themed contests, raffles, karaoke or even arranging for a DJ at half-time to create a great atmosphere. During the game, consider offering a menu of appetizers that don’t require silverware or plates, that are easy to serve and consume and bottled drinks (if you’re worried about overly excited customers, you can always opt for recyclable plastic cups).

With customer relationship management (CRM) software like Square Customer Directory, you can make the event known to your customers through email marketing campaigns with Square Marketing. Don’t underestimate the importance of social networks to promote the latest news and events of your establishment on the websites and apps that your target audience visits the most.

Step 2: Prepare your employees in advance

First things first: knowing the game time is very important! Be sure to check what time it starts so you can avoid the increase in traffic and get to the restaurant in plenty of time. Schedule the staff to be there in advance to get everything ready before the crowds arrive. Consider assigning someone to answer calls for reservations and customer questions, such as when the game begins, if the restaurant is busy, how long wait times are, directions from where they are to the restaurant, and more.

During the game, take advantage of the Square POS software and streamline your service so that the fun flows without interruptions — with Square for Restaurants, you can reduce queues and accept self-service orders placed via mobile. Although some people may still opt to watch the game at their own homes, or your bar may already be fully booked, you can still take orders for pickup, takeout, and, if you offer it, delivery on your free online ordering page.

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Step 3: Prepare your space to accommodate customers

When choosing what fans value most when they go to a public venue to watch the matches, most spectators love the socializing, atmosphere and food and drink aspects of game days.

What changes and investments can you make to your establishment in anticipation of customers on game days? Are you going to improve the interior by investing in a bigger television or in additional screens to offer better seats from which to watch the game? Are you going to acclimate the exterior with covered areas and heaters?

With the right preparation, you can turn major sporting events into an opportunity to skyrocket your sales this winter. Don’t forget to place banners and pennants, change the signs and hang posters in visible places that animate the atmosphere.

If you take care of your bar or restaurant strategy as if it were that of a first division soccer team it will be easier for you to achieve your goals, increase sales and retain new customers so that they visit you again and again, even in the off-season.